Hanoi - When it comes to Southeast Asia, everyone rushes to get to Thailand, and reasonably so, when you think of their gorgeous temples, bustling night markets, and incredibly cheap food.
But it's Vietnam, Thailand's neighbour that deserves a whirl. With ridiculously scenic coastal roads, mountain-filled skylines and a very interesting history it's easy to see why you should be making a bee-line for the rice bowl of Asia. Here's Busabout's Top Ten Reasons to visit Vietnam.
1. Vietnamese Pho
It is heaven in a bowl. Pho is Vietnamese soup but before you turn up your nose, it is unlike anything you've ever tasted before. Made from a delicious stock (beef or chicken usually) and loaded with fresh vegetables, noodles and general yumminess this is the closest thing to perfection. You'll find lots of street vendors selling Pho and it's a staple in every restaurant. And it's pronounced “fuh”.
2. The Imperial City of Hue
Gorgeous temples and gardens fill this imperial city that was once the seat of royal power, but beside temples and tombs it also has the most amazing beaches. Perfect for a bit of “flop and drop” in the sun.
3. Paradise Cave
Whatever idea you might have of a cave will be completely shattered once you enter this dungeon-like atmosphere with an undeniable beauty in its detail and design. Only discovered in 2005 Paradise Cave features spectacular stalactites and stalagmites that will take your breath away.
4. Basket Boats
Never mind the fact that they're nearly impossible to steer, you'll have a blast just trying anyway! As the locals fight for people to ride in their baskets, they'll playfully have a competition over who could spin in circles fastest and impress travellers the most. It's dizzily entertaining.
5. To Learn its History
Vietnam is a country with a long line of history in terms of attacks, invasions, and occupying of regions for several centuries. Not only are the excursions like the Cu Chi Tunnels or a visit to the War Remnants Museum enlightening, but they'll help you gain perspective about the resilience of the Vietnamese people.
6. Rice Fields
Who wouldn't want to bike through these perfectly symmetrical rice fields all day while locals wave and you only slightly wet your pants when you see oncoming cows in your path? Mai Chau is the perfect village for this.
7. Food Markets
Food of every colour, shape, and form will be perfectly arranged and displayed every single morning for you to gawk at, drool over, and purchase if you like. Vietnamese markets are fascinating and make want to eat healthier with their emphasis on fresh produce.
8. Conical Hats. Non La to you and I
Let's be honest here, images of Vietnamese in their traditional conical hats are iconic. They are used for protection from the sun by the locals, but as a fashion accessory for tourists. Either way, you will buy one and you will love it.
9. Island-hopping in Nha Trang
So many activities to do in this country for the adventurous soul, but snorkelling and island-hopping around Nha Trang has to be one of the most fun. The gorgeous and clear blue waters make for a perfect way to spend an entire afternoon.
10. Photo-Opps for Days
Whether looking out towards the ocean, leaning on the side of a temple door, or casually standing next to a waterfall, you'll come away with so many stunning pictures to share with your friends and convince them that Vietnam is indeed one of the best countries to visit in Southeast Asia.
Adapted from a press release for IOL
* If you'd like to explore Vietnam then speak to Busabout. Visit www.busabout.com or speak to the team on (011) 280 8455. Follow Busabout on social media using the #freespirited hash tag - you'll find them on Facebook and Twitter (@BusaboutSA).